American Express Co. says it hopes to improve its appeal among online merchants by adding fraud management to cover any payment type — not just its own.
Merchants want a fraud management system capable of covering all payment types they accept, rather than a separate one for each payment network, Amex said on Thursday.
The New York company plans to address this need by purchasing Accertify Inc., a three-year-old fraud management company with technology that works across all major card brands as well as alternative payment systems such as PayPal Inc., a unit of eBay Inc.
Merchants "don't want a single fraud prevention service for a single payment type," Bill Glenn, the president of Amex's global merchant services business, said in an interview.
Accertify's abilities should hold particular appeal for merchants that want to expand online, he said.
"Merchants want more and more e-commerce," Glenn said, "and more tools to prevent fraud."
Accertify has about 70 clients, including Southwest Airlines Co., Jet Blue Corp., Delta Air Lines Inc., Urban Outfitters Inc., Barnes & Noble Inc. and 1-800-Flowers.com Inc.
Amex agreed to pay $150 million for the Itasca, Ill., company. It expects the deal to close this year.
Analysts said the purchase could be particularly helpful for Amex's travel clients.
"It's a good step for them to have," said George Tubin, a senior research director at TowerGroup in Needham, Mass. "You are building in the ability to scrutinize tickets. [Accertify's] software does that and a couple of other things, including geo-location and transaction" services.
Jacob Jegher, a senior analyst in Celent's banking group, said Amex already does electronic verification, enhanced authorization and charge verification for its clients. And "I think it's a pretty straightforward opportunity, trying to understand the exponential fraud in e-commerce," he said.
Amex has "all kinds of merchant services," Jegher said, and "this is yet another one they can offer. There is a definite need in the industry."
Avivah Litan, a vice president and distinguished analyst at the Stamford, Conn., market research company Gartner Inc., said the deal addresses an urgent need Amex has to keep up with mobile payment and alternative payment providers.
"They are very threatened by mobile payments and alternative payments," she said.
Visa Inc. has similarly tried to leap ahead in mobile payments with its July acquisition of CyberSource Corp. MasterCard Inc. followed suit in October with its purchase of DataCash Group PLC. Amex also owns the online card processor Revolution Money, though analysts say it has not yet tapped the full potential of that purchase.
"It's kind of like a mad dash to the races, but this really, frankly, isn't enough to help them," Litan said of the Accertify deal. "The only way they are going to woo merchants away from alternative payments is to lower their interchange fees."
Jeff Liesendahl, Accertify's chief executive, said his company does not expect any substantial reorganization once the deal closes.
"We plan on staying in business — we plan on growing," he said. "Being partnered with somebody who you trust, who you can grow the business with, I think that's the whole package. That's where we could go with American Express. The fact that they get it."
Liesendahl said he will continue heading Accertify and will report directly to Glenn.
There will also be no layoffs of Accertify's roughly 100 employees, an Amex spokeswoman said.